Shopping tips from vegans help navigate grocery stores

Samantha Hill

Earlier this month, the Livingston vegan group showed locals how to scan the grocery aisles for vegan items as well as potentially healthy options for those looking to change their habits this new year.

Local vegan advocate Bonnie Goodman along with health coach Karen O’Connor led a group of 12 through Town & Country Foods Jan. 7 in search of foods that could be healthy and vegan. The outing was sponsored by the Live and Let Livingston Vegan Potluck group that hosts dinners once a month.

“Always a good thing I noticed is shopping on the outside aisles — that is where all the least processed stuff is,” one of the participants pointed out.

Goodman said the way she likes to do things is to look at her plate and see that there is mostly green on it, and then to have colorful foods throughout.

“You want your plate to look like a Christmas tree,” she said.

She also said a person can never spend too much time exploring the produce aisle because of the variety it has offer.

Many grocery stores also have dried food options — weighed by the pound — that feature different nuts, seeds, dried beans and fruits. Most of these items can also be a good source of fiber.

For anyone looking to go vegan or to cut out certain foods that could cause dietary upsets, such as soy, gluten or dairy, it is important to read the back labels on products, Goodman said. Foods that may contain allergens such as these are bolded on the label.

Other food labeling tips for vegans is looking for labels listing “vegetarian society approved,” “not tested on animals” and “certified vegan,” among others.

During the grocery store trek, Goodman also made an effort to inform participants of items that are “accidentally vegan,” which you could say are vegan without trying. Some popular ones include Oreo’s, many semi-sweet chocolate brands, bacon-flavored bits, Jello-brand pudding, and many ethnic foods, such as Indian or Mexican.

After the shopping trip, Goodman and O’Connor hosted a tasting session for vegan cheesecakes, cheeses, almond ice cream and yogurts.

Some participants commented saying that the foods weren’t quite the same as their non-vegan counterparts, but were still pretty good.